Northern Ireland elects two Remainer MEPs in European elections

Alliance party leader and candidate Naomi Long (centre), at the European Parliamentary elections cou

Alliance party leader and candidate Naomi Long (centre), at the European Parliamentary elections count. Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA Wire. - Credit: PA

Northern Ireland has elected two Remainer MEPs in the European elections.

Northern Ireland, which voted 56% Remain in the 2016 referendum, returned two Remain-supporting MEPs and one Brexiteer.

The Ulster Unionist Party was ousted by the cross-community pro-Remain Alliance Party, with leader Naomi Long left speechless by a best ever performance that was "beyond expectations".

Long won 106,000 first-preference votes, while Sinn Fein's Martina Anderson topped the poll with 126,951 votes and the DUP's MEP Diane Dodds registered 124,991 first preferences.

The leader of the Alliance Party claimed Northern Ireland voters are sick of stale politics after sweeping to a stunning success in the European election.

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Long's 105,928 first preference vote total was double the 53,052 secured by the Ulster Unionist Party - the once preeminent force in Northern Ireland politics that relinquished a seat it had held for 40 years.

It marked another extraordinary achievement for the politician who has earned a reputation as a formidable electoral performer, having famously dethroned ex-DUP leader Peter Robinson as East Belfast MP in 2010.

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"I think people are tired of the fact that the stale politics of the past isn't delivering and I think what we are offering for people are solutions to the problems we have, not just more problems," she said.

Pro-European Long, whose party also recorded significant gains in this month's local elections in Northern Ireland, said the vote showed that the region still wanted to remain in the EU.

"For those who try to misappropriate it - and try to put it into unionist and nationalist boxes - I am not having that," she said.

"The people who voted for me came together from right across the community, regardless of unionism, regardless of nationalism, regardless of all those labels, they came together behind Alliance to send a message. And that message is - we want to remain in the EU, give us a 'People's vote' and let us have the final say."

Martina Anderson said the result had sent a strong message to Europe.

"Absolutely delighted, our strategy has worked," she said.

"We wanted to send a message back to the EU by, in the first instance, topping the poll and, more importantly, sending two Remainers back.

"Fifty seven per cent of the people who voted here voted to remain in the EU and they have sent a strong message back to Europe that they want to stay in the EU."

Her party president Mary Lou McDonald added: "I think this result is a resounding rejection of Brexit again. It sends the clearest possible message that people here in the north of Ireland have not consented and do not consent to Brexit and I hope London and Mrs May, and whoever will prove to be Mrs May's successor, hears that message loud and clear and understands that the DUP, while they have a democratic mandate, do not speak for the majority of people who live in the north of Ireland or indeed across the island."

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